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This angel has paws

Dog alerts Morris man to medical condition

Don Baron, of Morris, plays with Sophie, a chocolate lab, that helped save his life during their walk together on Oct. 5.
Don Baron, of Morris, plays with Sophie, a chocolate lab, that helped save his life during their walk together on Oct. 5.

For a Morris man, man's best friend is also his hero.

Don Baron, 65, is a regular walker of Sophie, a 9-year-old chocolate lab, through Bone-ifide Care. Inc. Baron's daughter, Bonnie Latta, owns the dog pet services company and he is one of her dog walkers. Sophie's owner, Jan Close of Morris, has been using their services for years.

"She gets excited whenever Bonnie comes or when the other walkers come, but not the same as when Don comes. I call him her boyfriend Don," Close said.

On Oct. 5, Baron went to Close's home, where he is normally greeted by an excited Sophie rushing to him, barking and licking him hello.

"She didn't run at me like she always does," he said.

In fact, she was being cautious around him.

A typical walk with Sophie for Baron is actually a run for about 16 blocks, but when they left the house that day, she knew Baron wasn't up to running. They walked and only went about six blocks.

"She kept stopping and looking at me like, 'Are you OK?'" Baron said.

During the week before that Friday, Baron had been feeling some indigestion and shortness of breath. His daughter, Bonnie Latta, and his wife, Judy, had been trying to convince him to go to the doctor. He didn't listen and went through the week feeling bad.

Until, that is, Sophie was acting so strange around him.

"That's when my life got changed real fast. She was my little angel that day," Baron said. "She's just a little girl that really watched over me that day."

After Sophie reacted so cautiously, he took Sophie home and decided to go to the emergency room.

It turns out Baron had had a heart attack earlier in the week and was transferred from Morris Hospital to Joliet to have two stents put in. His surgery couldn't be done at Morris due to other medical conditions he has. Baron will be having open-heart surgery in late November.

"(The doctors) said I was a walking time bomb. I had three blocked arteries. Once they put the two stents in, I could really breathe," Baron said.

Latta said she and her mother had been trying to convince him to go to the doctor every day for a week.

"It took Sophie to get him to know something was wrong," Latta said. "I am so thankful he walked her that day."

"I don't think that it is a coincidence that dog is God spelled backwards. They're angels," she continued.

Baron said he walks a lot of dogs through Bone-ifide, but he has a special bond with Sophie. He has been walking her for about five years.

When Sophie and Baron reunited for a visit last week at Baron's home, Sophie was back to attacking Baron with love. The old friends wrestled, played and Sophie gave him lots of kisses.

"I missed you Sophie!" Baron told her.

"I've never seen her this excited. Yeah, I'm in better shape, aren't I?" he asked Sophie as she circled around him over and over.

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